Most days, I don’t actually write in my writing room at all.
Yes, I have a writing room. It wasn’t always a writing room; it was once my solarium, containing nothing but a broom and a dustpan. Today, it’s an overstuffed home office, with three bookcases filled with books, wineglasses, expensive scotch, moderately-priced scotch, and dishes we registered for but haven’t gotten around to using. And a plain white Ikea desk. With two 27-inch monitors on top, bought for my software development career, years before I attended my first Creative Writing classes in 2018. Under the desk, sits the computer I built myself in 2013. At the computer parts store, I bought an orange-coloured case, a motherboard, hard drives, and a bunch of other parts to connect it all together. The first time I pressed the Power button, I was stunned that it booted up, that the whole thing didn’t go up in flames.
This is the computer I’m typing this out on right now.
But this isn’t where I write most days.
Roll out of bed. Make myself presentable by corporate standards.
Rush out the door with headphones on and a book in hand, because when am I not running late or reading?
Read a few pages at my transit stop. Or journal on my iPhone in iNotes: the place for first drafts sometimes nearing a thousand words before I move them to Microsoft Word.
Squeeze self onto public transit.
Stop reading once it’s time to dash into the terminal for the SeaBus commuter ferry, until all that’s left is the last ramp onto the SeaBus and I finally make it on board.
I plunk myself down on a SeaBus plastic seat, pull out my MacBook from my backpack and open up my laptop.
This is when and where my writing day officially begins.
Always a twelve-minute sailing time. No stop to miss. Guaranteed timed writing sprint. Never any delays once I’ve boarded. The SeaBus never has any equivalents to the subway’s “The SkyTrain is being held due to a medical emergency. Please stand by.”
The clock is ticking.
Wait for iNotes to synchronize from my iPhone to my MacBook. Any words I typed out on my iPhone this morning magically appear on my laptop.
If I’m working on a class assignment, the Word document’s still open on my laptop. I frantically append words on. Or edit words out, so as not to choke up my classmates’ printers with “Why is Catherine’s workshop submission so long?”
Glance up. The other side of Burrard Inlet is still far away. I’ve got this.
Keep frantically typing. Or editing.
The other SeaBus terminal starts to loom larger.
One final frantic burst of typing, getting one last idea out before it is swallowed up by my workday.
Fellow commuters start to don their backpacks, lining up to disembark.
Whoosh! I hear, as the SeaBus doors open. Shoving my laptop back in my backpack, I rush out, trying to not be the last to disembark, usually failing at this.
Make my way over to the office.
All morning, I work at my software development job, which means attending team meetings, discussing business requirements, and writing and testing computer code.
Forty-five minutes before lunch: At my office desk, I start grazing upon the lunch I brought, eating while working for the next forty-five minutes.
Lunchtime: Promptly leave my office desk, MacBook in hand.
If it’s warm and sunny, I head to a local park. With sunglasses on, I plunk myself down on park bench seating, crack open my laptop, and write.
But this is Vancouver, where sun and warmth are confined to a brief window between Victoria Day to Labour Day.
So, the rest of the year, I wander around my office building at lunch, plunking myself down on some comfy seating on a random floor where I don’t know anyone. I once did this on a floor where I did know some people, coworkers who stopped to talk to me on a day when I had class assignments due, on a day when I didn’t really have the time to talk to them, but still talked to them anyway. I’ve avoided that floor since.
And so, on another random floor’s hallway couches, I crack open my laptop, getting out as many first-draft words as I can, or editing out as many later-draft words as I need to, before I press “Save” and head back to my office desk.
Unless, unless a poetry submission is due that day.
In which case, out the office door I go, finding a quiet spot outside my office building to read my poem or my set of poems out loud twice to make sure that they just sound right, before pressing “Send” and heading back to my office desk.
On the SeaBus evening rush home among my fellow commuters, I put my headphones on, whip my laptop out, and tune everyone out for another twelve minutes of writing or revising.
And then I spend my evening either at a writing class, a literary reading, or a dance class.
If after getting ready for bed, I’m still half-awake, I then plunk myself in bed in pyjamas, crack open my laptop to write, and try not to fall asleep with my laptop still open.
Sometimes I even succeed.
If after getting ready for bed, I’m miraculously wide awake, then I might make it to my writing room that night after all.
Catherine Lewis is a Chinese-Canadian poet and memoirist born in Hong Kong and raised in the Scarborough and Vancouver areas. After completing a BSc at UBC and a diploma in IT, she has worked as a software developer in the Vancouver area ever since. Having recently revived her dormant love for writing, she will graduate from the Writer’s Studio certificate program at Simon Fraser University this fall. Her work is published in emerge 19.